Written by Ed Brubaker, Andy Diggle, Ann Nocenti, and Frank Miller
Art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudino, Klaus Janson, Chris Samnee, Paul Azaceta, Billy Tan, David Aja, Brian Michael Bendis, Geof Darrow, Stefano Gaudino, Rafael Grampa, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Joe Quesada, John Romita Sr., Patrick Zircher, and Terry Austin
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth, Justin Ponsor, and Lynn Varley
Lettering by VC's Chris Eliopoulos, VC's Joe Caramagna, and Joe Rosen
Published by Marvel Comics
In Stores August 19, 2009
Review by David Pepose
With this anniversary issue, we see the final throwdown between Daredevil and the most unholy of alliances: Wilson Fisk, the Owl, Lady Bullseye, and the ninja clan known as the Hand. And after seeing Matt Murdock struggle with the weight of one of his fabled breakdowns, Brubaker and company produce a well-crafted conclusion with Daredevil #500 that leads to a new status quo that feels organic and inexorable, one that I am particularly interested in seeing play out.
The issue opens up with a moody reunion between Matt Murdock and his catatonic wife Milla. It's here that Brubaker gets to the heart of the character, the crushing guilt that has defined him for so long. It's here that Brubaker takes a small step, that same sort of first step Matt always needs to come back from the edge: he does the right thing.
It's a painful, poignant kind of moment that's cut short by more pressing issues -- the fact that those closest to Matt Murdock are being targeted by the Hand. But Brubaker isn't about to go by the numbers with his plot, as he subverts the typical race-against-time plot -- instead of going on fruitless tangents, Brubaker goes for the goods early, treating readers to some brutally beautiful violence and Master Izo's surprisingly satisfying ace in the hole. It's all set against some well-timed pacing, and Brubaker gives an explanation of Izo's strategem that fits perfectly.
That said, some of Brubaker's plotting comes off as a little too pat -- I'm not disputing the overall conclusion of the book, but certain things such as the quick dispatch of Lady Bullseye or Master Izo's backstory came off as less satisfying than other parts of the book. Still, Brubaker's Kingpin comes off as wonderfully unhinged, and to see a deal with the devil be Matt Murdock's ultimate salvation... well, if anybody can make it come off as poetry, it has to be Brubaker.
Artwise, Michael Lark's sketchy style wouldn't ordinarily be my cup of tea, so it was a big surprise to me to see how quickly he won me over. His sense of mood is just as strong as his sense of action -- panels such as Matt kissing Milla's forehead are dark and tender, while a sequence of Matt bouncing off a wall as shurikens lodge all around him are just electrifying. Matt Hollingsworth is the perfect colorist to work on a project like this, as he seems to instinctively know how to put Lark's pencils in just the right light -- nothing ever looks muddy, but the tone of a scene is never sacrificed.
Out of all the anniversary books that Marvel has been putting out lately, I have to say that Daredevil #500 really has the most heft to its special features. Andy Diggle and Billy Tan immediately pick up on the fallout of the main story, giving a really strong justification for the upcoming Daredevil: The List. Without spoiling too many details, it looks as though Daredevil -- or someone he knows -- is sending a message to Norman Osborn, and for Bullseye that means "all your Christmases have come at once."
Seminal Daredevil writer Ann Nocenti also teams up with David Aja for a short backup story -- while the story felt a little abstract for my liking, the artwork was gorgeous stuff. David Aja needs another ongoing, because his work -- riffing off David Mazzucchelli but adding in a rawness and energy all his own -- is just phenomenal.
That said, you couldn't have a Daredevil anniversary like this without a nod to the master -- Frank Miller. It speaks volumes that a reprint of his epic run hits harder than anything else in the book -- even the main story -- but it really is just perfect work, as Daredevil plays Russian Roulette with a paralyzed Bullseye. While that reprint alone is worth the price of admission, Marvel has done well for its 500th issue of Daredevil. It's sad, it's a thriller, it's taking Daredevil somewhere he hasn't gone before -- for any fans of Ol' Hornhead, you owe it to yourself to pick this book up.